Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Cheryl Cole - a role model for our times?

Cheryl Cole is reported to be in line for a £3 million payday when she joins the judges of the American version of The X Factor next year. Her successful pop career will receive a further boost when she moves across the Atlantic.
More than anyone the Girls Aloud singer epitomises the celebrity culture that grips Britain. Piers Morgan recently called Cole the most talked about woman in the country; lads’ mags vote her the world’s sexiest.
Cole has come a very long way from the Newcastle housing estate where she grew up. Ambition alone – fuelled by her natural beauty and modest musical talent – would have only taken her so far. What distinguishes Cole from the wannabes is that, either by luck or design, she has kept touch with her roots and her accent. She hasn’t attempted to airbrush out her difficult family background.
Her fans can identify with the Cheryl Cole story, which with its triumphs and setbacks is theirs written large.
She’s had brushes with the law and with death; been cheated on by a now ex-husband soccer star; and each week emotes on Britain’s most watched television show. The ‘people’ know her. They understand why she feels the need to change her hair colour or add a tattoo – they’ve been there themselves.
There is regular heart-searching in the popular press about Cole’s worthiness as a role model for today’s young. I know if my children were still at an impressionable age and the alternative was Kate Middleton, our future Queen – who has never had a proper job and life’s goal was to nab Prince William – I’d choose Cheryl Cole every time.

Monday, 29 November 2010

Eating out - GC's 10 top tips

1. Always be nice to restaurant staff – seek their advice when you order. Never be rude whatever the provocation. There’s too many ways these usually hard-working, underpaid people can be revenged – losing your coat, spitting in your soup etc.
2. Complain before you’re seated if you don’t like your table’s position. Some restaurants either want to put you in the window to make the place look popular or else try to get rid of their worst tables first. They won’t be surprised if you don’t want to sit opposite the toilets etc. Be prepared to leave if you're unhappy.
3. Make sure you’re given all the establishment’s menus. Some places are reluctant to advertise their cheaper menus which are aimed at regulars.
4. Often the shorter the menu, the more care in the quality and preparation of the food.
5. Think twice before calling for salt/pepper if there’s none on your table – it means the chef believes he/she knows best how to season your food.
6. The house wine should be a good bet.
7. Don’t be afraid to ask for tap water.
8. Check whether service is included on your bill.
9. Take your credit card receipt home with you.
10. If you can, check out the local restaurants the night before to see which are popular.

Friday, 26 November 2010

Other Men's Flowers stays in bloom - an appreciation of Lord Wavell's poetry selection

I’ve come across a gem of a poetry collection selected and annotated by Lord Wavell called Other Men’s Flowers. His choice is old school and eccentric - publication was an afterthought and so reflects the career soldier’s personality.
As befits a man of action, the poems for the most part are red-bloodied. Robert Browning and Rudyard Kipling are strongly represented with G K Chesterton and John Masefield in attendance. Wordsworth, Tennyson, and Milton don’t get a look in lacking, according to Wavell, human warmth and humour. Both of which mattered much to him.

Thursday, 25 November 2010

David Cameron's John Bercow 'dwarf' joke leaves PM looking Dopey.

David Cameron has shown poor judgement in continuing to deride Commons Speaker John Bercow’s modest stature. Cameron believes Bercow – though previously a Tory MP, he only took office with Labour support – is biased in favour of the Opposition.
At a Parliamentary Press Gallery lunch yesterday the Coalition leader repeated a joke said to have been made by health minister Simon Burns.
Following a traffic incident between their two cars, Bercow is said to have said, “I’m not happy” to which Burns replied, “Which one are you?” – a reference to Snow White’s Seven Dwarves.
I’m around the same height as Bercow – let’s say 5ft 6in – and take no exception to the wisecrack. Many would be happy to step into his size 6's. Bercow has carved a successful political career; his taller wife Sally is attractive if gabby; and despite his lack of inches he manages to keep getting in the Prime Minister's face.

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Squeaky bum time for Ed Miliband

“In terms of policy, but not in terms of values, we start with a blank page,” Labour leader Ed Miliband told The Guardian last week. The obvious good sense of this position from a man whose party was slaughtered at the General Election and faces another five years in opposition has gone down like the proverbial lead balloon among those at every point of the political compass.
Press commentators from both the Right and Left see the bread stolen from their mouths – in other words they fear having nothing to sound off about.
Meanwhile the public want to see the Coalition government forced to justify its swingeing cuts. But this exposes Labour’s vulnerability.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

William, Kate and the Blue Meanies - reflections on the Royal Wedding

The announcement today that Prince William and Kate Middleton’s Royal Wedding will be on April 29th next year – and news of a Bank Holiday to mark the nuptials – will put the British monarchy under a close scrutiny not seen since the marriage of Charles and Camilla.
Respect for the Queen is pretty solid throughout the country. But for the most part indifference rules about the rest of the Royals, despite the noises on the fringe made by pro and anti-monarchists.
I date this disillusion from the melodrama that surrounded the life and death of Princess Diana. I might cross the road to see a Royal but I wouldn’t catch a bus.

Monday, 22 November 2010

Just how useful are restaurant review sites when it comes to finding a good curry?

Just how useful are restaurant review sites? Human nature being what it is you are more likely to contribute to a website if you’ve had a rubbish meal rather than a reasonable one. Whatever the verdict the evaluations can be years old, during which time the restaurant could have improved or deteriorated. Serious criticism may have prompted a change in the practices previously objected to.
You don’t have to be much of a gourmet, for example, to visit a top London curry restaurant – say, Benares, Bombay Brasserie, or The Cinnamon Club – spend a small fortune and have a great meal.
But in these straitened times value for money is an important factor in choosing where to eat. This is where review sites should make their mark always given that there is no substitute for the personal recommendation of family or friends.

Friday, 19 November 2010

THE NEW TENANT - a short story by GC

A noise woke Teddy Bigelow. 2am and Hattersley Court should have been wrapped in blissful silence. The apartment block was showing its age but its flats could honestly boast “peaceful seclusion yet walking distance of Archway tube” in any rental ad.
No dogs, no loud music, no noisy parties, and definitely no children. As chairman of the residents’ association he had no difficulty in imposing a ban on the latter even though it was not an actual clause in the letting agreement.
Yet he lay in bed listening to a disturbing noise much closer than the distant traffic.
It was penetrating rather than loud. Minutes of silence punctuated by seconds of a whine that was at first mechanical and then human. The source was as mysterious as the sound itself.
The bedrooms of the 20 apartments in the three storey building overlooked a small communal garden. There could be no other explanation than that the cause was close by.

Thursday, 18 November 2010

The funniest line in British screen comedy

To qualify as quintessentially the funniest line in British screen comedy it has to be chucklesome, aggressive, rude and a double entendre. The Carry On movies has them in abundance. But to my mind the best ever is found at the 2:45 point in the Doctor In Clover clip that heads this post.
It is delivered by comedian Arthur Haynes who died of a heart attack at the peak of his television popularity in 1966 at just 52.
Largely overlooked now, this British Film Institute ScreenOnLine link gives a flavour of the loss Haynes was to the world of comedy. The misanthropy of his television tramp character had echoes of Tony Hancock but in addition he was a one man warrior in the class war.
The movie, based on the Richard Gordon comic novel, was released in 1966 and is mainly a Leslie Phillips vehicle. But for me the exchange between hospital patient Tarquin Wendover (Arthur Haynes) and top consultant Sir Lancelot Spratt (James Robertson Justice) lifts the film out of the ordinary. Haynes’s screen time – repeating his combative personae - in the film is in the best traditions of comic acting.
At 2:45 Wendover is explaining to Spratt the cause of his back and chest pain is the result of an old war wound suffered while “bending down in the trenches prior to like leading my men over the top.”
Wendover: Suddenly, bang, off goes a grenade and a lump of shrapnel hits me right up the…
Spratt: Rectum?
Wendover: Well, it didn’t do 'em any good.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Why London's 2012 Olympics logo is the worst in the history of the modern Games

It’s three years since the logo for London’s 2012 Summer Olympics was unveiled by brand specialists Wolff Olins. I thought it was rubbish then – even more so now that it is beginning to appear commercially.
I’m no Mr Outrage. I’m not easily riled by such things. But I am a Londoner and I want our Games to impress the world and we're off to a 'false start'.
It’s much too late to do anything about it but it is clear the design company – and UK Olympic officials who gave the logo the green light – made a fundamental error in treating the Games as a brand that could be infinitely exploited.
The logo most closely resembles a broken swastika in the way that the year is the predominate theme. But 2012 is the least interesting aspect of the Games – it happens every four years. The Olympic rings are a constant. What changes is the location – yet the logo dismisses our capital city as almost an afterthought.
This is how the Wolff Olins website sees it.
“The emblem is 2012, an instantly recognizable symbol and a universal form – one already closely associated with the Games in London. It is unconventionally bold, deliberately spirited and unexpectedly dissonant, echoing London’s qualities of a modern, edgy city. Containing neither sporting images nor pictures of London landmarks, the emblem shows that the Games are more than London, more than sport. It is for everyone, regardless of age, culture and language. It is designed to be populated, to contain infills and images, so it is recognisable enough for everyone to feel and be part of London 2012.”
Complete tosh, of course. The reason why the logo is intended to be so flexible – for example there is no standard colour – is because it allows companies to incorporate it into their sponsorship advertising.
London’s presence is dismissed as an irritating necessity warranting a mere lower case mention.
If the design really cost £400,000 as has been suggested it was money wasted. The 2012 London Olympics logo is the worst ever in the history of the modern Games.

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Congratulations but Kate Middleton is no role model for young women

Kate Middleton is no role model for young women in the 21st century. Attractive certainly, and from tonight’s television interview intelligent and charming, and probably decent too but she still hung on eight years while Prince William dithered over tying the knot.
Although well-educated, she never held down a job outside the family orbit all the time she faced being left on the shelf by her indecisive boyfriend.
The speculation is over and Catherine Middleton (as we are being encouraged to call the future Queen) is to marry her prince next year. Now it is too late for her to lead anything approaching a normal life.

Monday, 15 November 2010

Ten steps across Kensington Gardens

1. Exit Lancaster Gate tube station and enter Kensington Gardens by Marlborough Gate. The Italian Gardens in front of you have one of the finest sets of fountains to be found in London.
2. Close by is the Peter Pan statue. Its appeal is as immortal as the boy himself.
3. On the far side of The Long Water is the first of four temporary (until March 13th 2011) large mirror-like stainless steel installations by prominent artist Anish Kapoor. The other three are close by. The exhibition is titled Turning the World Upside Down.
4. A short detour into Hyde Park takes you to the Diana Princess of Wales memorial fountain.

Friday, 12 November 2010

How to avoid joining the Twitter Two

The Twitter community is learning the hard way what print journalists are taught from Day 1 – irony hardly ever works. The clear joke you hear inside your head is easily lost on the page and you run the risk of being taken literally. Especially so in a world where officials are not encouraged to think for themselves when judging whether a threat is real or ironic. More so if your wit is limited to 140 characters.
This has been the fate of two recent tweeters. Both were clearly joking from the off and yet found themselves in hot water.
Paul Chambers threatened to blow up an airport and Gareth Compton called for a Muslim journalist to be stoned to death. The law intervened raising freedom of speech issues.
The response has been partisan with Chambers winning support internationally, while Compton has been hung out to dry. I have sympathy for neither.

Thursday, 11 November 2010

The big question after the Millbank riot

When the young man who dropped a fire extinguisher from the roof of the besieged Tory HQ in London’s Millbank yesterday is caught, he should be charged with attempted murder. It is a miracle that today’s headlines are not leading with the death of one of the police officers or protesters who were just feet away from where the extinguisher landed.
The police are embarrassed they weren’t prepared for either the numbers who marched to show their opposition to higher university tuition fees or the strong possibility that a section, determined on mischief, might attack Millbank Tower.
Demonstrations and marches are likely to be a regular event around the UK next year, as the Coalition’s measures to rein in the deficit erode jobs and shrink the welfare state. The big question is whether yesterday’s riot is the forerunner of more episodes of serious civil unrest.

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

If I could live my life all over again I still wouldn't be an international playboy

If I could live my life all over again I still wouldn’t be an international playboy. I couldn’t handle the paternity suits, the rich food, the ski injuries, yacht sickness, the constant partying to preserve my celebrity status, the plastic surgery, cocaine-destroyed nostrils and above all the obnoxious company of people just like me.
If nothing else I never had the money. There’s no point in losing sleep over those things beyond your control.
It becomes more problematical where I missed out on the pleasures I could afford. Take sky-diving. I can imagine the thrill practitioners must experience leaping into mid-air, tumbling through space, the rushing wind as the ground races towards you before your parachute opens. But with my fear of heights and death no amount of empathy would ever have persuaded me to take up the sport.

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

What today's politicians can learn from Michael Foot

For all his faults – not least that he was a disastrous leader of the Labour Party in opposition – there is good reason to keep Michael Foot’s memory alive regardless of your politics.
I was one of many hundreds at the event Celebrating Michael Foot at the Lyric Theatre in London’s Shaftesbury Avenue last night. The great and the Left turned their thoughts to the grand old Parliamentarian who died in March at the age of 96.
Gordon Brown came in person as did Neil Kinnock and Roy Hattersley; Tony Blair – away fixing the Middle East – was represented by wife Cherie; while the new Labour leader Ed Miliband was busy changing his new son’s nappies so he sent his deputy Harriet Harman to deliver some platitudes.

Monday, 8 November 2010

What did we do before the internet?

What did we do before the internet? Being computer-less for nearly five days was akin to temporarily joining a monastic order. “You don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone,” Joni Mitchell once sung. I never really appreciated just how dependent I’d become on having access to the internet until now.
When my laptop died last week - later to be resurrected courtesy of a new hard drive - I was instantly ostracised by the rest of the world.

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Note to Grapefruitcrazy readers

The timing of the resumption of service will depend on how quickly I can get my laptop repaired. GC

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

What men want as much as sex in relationships

Stephen Fry, a previous beacon of wit, charm, and intelligence has got himself into hot water for daring to broach the subject of female sexuality in gay lifestyle magazine Attitude.
He may or may not have said that women are not as hot on sex as men and see it as the price they pay for a relationship with a man.
Television polymath Fry, a gay man, is reported in the magazine as saying "If women liked sex as much as men, there would be straight cruising areas in the way there are gay cruising areas."
A frivolous response is to ask with whom heterosexual young men have been having one night stands when they go out on the pull?

Monday, 1 November 2010

Halloween puts the hex on Guy Fawkes Night

Guy Fawkes Night is one British tradition I am quite happy to see die a little every year. In many places where there is a celebration this Friday (Remember, remember the fifth of November/Gunpowder, treason, and plot), it will be called Bonfire or Fireworks Night. And quite right too. The burning of effigies is made none the more wholesome accompanied by jacket potatoes.
I don’t want to overstate the point. It’s more than 400 years since Catholic Fawkes and his fellow-conspirators failed to blow up King James I in support of their mistreated coreligionists - and has long since lost its historical significance.